Burning bridges: Goldman Sachs exec’s resignation letter in the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith, an Executive Director at the firm, lashed out in a remarkably frank account of his time there.

According to the opinion piece, the culture of Goldman in the last twelve years since he joined went from being one about serving the client to serving the firm. “It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients… I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.”

Smith claims that the culture at Goldman is more about offloading their least valuable investments and complicated financial instruments on clients than about serving the financial needs of their clients. A large part of the blame, according to Smith, is at the feet of Goldman’s president Gary Cohn and CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

This PR nightmare comes at a tough time for Goldman. Losses are appearing and bonuses are down. However bad this letter makes Goldman look, it surely won’t be a mortal wound to the firm. Despite dismal public opinion, they’re still the most powerful and highly respected in their industry. The motivation for Smith’s resignation, aside from the apparent moral shortcomings of the firm, is still unclear. But it makes one wonder why, unless he saved his money, he would burn such a substantial bridge?